Every weekday for over four years I drove the portion of GA Highway 365 from Habersham County to Gainesville. No matter the season or the weather when I neared Crane Mill Rd I would look up the hill at the line of painted buses creating the wall around Alonzo Wade’s salvage yard. They fascinated me as individual works of art, as an overall installation, and as a story I wanted to know. I was so curious about the artists, the site, and how permission for painting was received. When I realized that every year new murals were added I decided I desperately wanted to paint one myself. This past weekend my wish came true.
Last year I actually found the contact information for the artists, Nack and Arm, who have organized the project for the last nine years, but it was too late to get involved. I followed them and #schoolbusgraveyard on social media so I would hopefully have more notice this year. It worked. In early November, as soon as they posted it was coming close to time, I painted my concept on a piece of board, photoshopped it onto a bus photo and sent it in. It was accepted with very little fanfare. They liked my idea. I was told what dates to show up and very little else.
I will admit that not knowing what to expect did cause a bit of trepidation, but mainly I was just excited. I figured that nothing really mattered beyond the fact that I got to paint a bus. I loved the idea of trying to make one of my images very large scale and for it to be somewhere that it could be seen by lots of people. I started thinking logistics and materials and realized I would need help. I first asked my children if they wanted to take part in painting a bus. They declined. I next asked Richard and Scott. They both enthusiastically accepted. Knowing they were both going to be part of the project soothed my stress considerably. The only worry left was the weather. The week leading up was incredibly wet and there was no rain date scheduled. I worried about trying to paint while wet and cold. But as Richard has taught me, good kit makes all the difference. Good boots, coated winter gloves, and all sorts of weather appropriate clothes were collected along with the painting supplies. By the time December 14th rolled around we were very prepared.
Richard and I got to the Schoolbus Graveyard by 8am Saturday morning. The organizers and an artist that had flown in from Denver were already there. We introduced ourselves and were told to just walk around and pick a bus. We walked the maze of vehicles twice considering our options before choosing an old church bus that was easily accessible. It was cold so there was no point in standing around. We got to work setting up and then I jumped right in to trying to rough in her head and shoulder. Scott soon arrived and joined in. We worked solid barely taking any breaks until after 3 in the afternoon. We ate a quick late lunch then continued to work until dark. After cleaning up and taking a quick walk around to see everyone else’s progress it was wonderful to join everyone around a campfire to hang out and socialize a bit. A lot of the artists were camping out right there, but our team was glad to have nice warm beds waiting. We were especially thankful for Rhonda and Johnny’s hospitality.
We got enough done on Saturday that we were able to have a more leisurely day Sunday. We went to church first and by the time we got back to work the sun was shining bright. The added warmth was lovely. I worked on smoothing and shaping our dreamer’s face and then we cleaned up edges all over. By the time the sun started going down we were ready to call her finished. The bus’s location while we were painting her is not visible from the road, but the owner of the salvage yard plans to shuffle the newly painted ones around a bit. Soon you should be able to see her at the top of the hill looking up from 365.
Everything about the experience was wonderful. I am so appreciative of Richard and Scott’s help and support. I could not have done it without them. All the other artists we met were so friendly as well as talented. I find myself wishing we could go do it again next month instead of having to wait a full year. If anyone has any walls or old vehicles that need some color and swirls let me know…
Our Vivid Dreamer is in good company:
The Schoolbus Graveyard is located at Alonzo Wade Rd, Alto, GA 30510. It is 10 minutes south of Cornelia and 20 minutes north of Gainesville, GA on Hwy 365. If you visit on a weekday before 4pm you can check in at the office and look around inside. On weekends or later in the day you can check out the murals on the exterior perimeter.